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Lake Mead’s dropping level sobering

When some time has passed since your last visit to a location you once frequented, even relatively minor changes can be quite noticeable. Perhaps a tree has been removed or a building recently painted. But when changes are significant, however, they can be more than noticeable, much more.

Sometimes changes are good thing, sometimes they are not so good, and sometimes they can only be described as sobering.

Such is the case with the Overton Arm of Lake Mead and the story told by the remnants of Echo Bay Marina, once a thriving resort destination for anglers and recreational boaters alike. As Roger and I drove through the small collection of buildings early Saturday morning, we couldn’t help but notice the now empty parking lot and the equally vacant hotel whose once blue paint is giving way to a dull gray.

Especially startling was the old courtesy dock and boat slips that lay half on dry ground and half in the mud left behind by dropping water levels at Lake Mead. In some places the small lateral docks point skyward, resembling in some ways the extended arm of a person reaching for help.

At last we arrived at the low-water launch ramp and dropped Roger’s boat in the water. We motored our way toward the Bighorn Islands and found a nice bay with several rocky points and rock strewn shorelines where we might pick up a mix of largemouth and smallmouth bass.

As usual, Roger brought four fish, all smallmouth bass, to the boat before I had my first hook up. He was using a lipless crank bait with a white belly and dark gray coloring on the back. I dug through my tackle box and found a chrome Cordell Spot. On my third or fourth cast a small striper popped the Spot. With that result I kept throwing the Spot, but didn’t get so much as another bump.

Meanwhile, Roger caught another fish or two so I swapped the Spot out with a square bill crankbait with a white belly and blue to blue-green coloring topside. As we worked our way along a rocky shoreline something interesting happened. Just as I reeled the lure up to the surface, right next to the boat, a plump smallmouth bass surprised me by coming out of the depths to grab the lure. He missed and so did I.

In disgust I leaned over the side, throwing a little tantrum but not realizing I had dropped the lure back into the water at the same time. Then that smallie surprised me again. He turned around and hammered that crankbait even though it was just lying on the surface with no movement other than that caused by the water’s motion. He wasn’t big. A keeper, not much more than 14 inches long if that, but the experience itself made my day.

Roger and I both got a good laugh out of that experience, but we were soon interrupted by the sounds of gun fire, the subsequent ricochet and the sound of bullets passing overhead. It was time to move. While hunting is legal where we were, plinking or target shooting is not.

We traveled north to what is left of Ann Margaret Beach, and there isn’t much. Where boaters once traveled freely on the water, Roger and I found a raised silt bed covered with vegetation along with a couple of cows. In the general area we found several tule beds, some in the backs of coves and some along the main channel. Near one of those coves we spoke with a couple of duck hunters scouting out the terrain in hopes that cooler weather would soon arrive in the west and send some birds this direction. Perhaps the changes to the Overton Arm will create opportunity for them.

Roger managed to catch a couple more fish as the day went on and we tried different locations, but my luck must have run out when we left the bay we fished first thing that morning. As we drove back to town, I couldn’t help but remember what Echo Bay was like a few years ago and wondered whether we will see those days again or if this change is permanent.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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